TOWN CREEK — Lawrence County solid waste officials don’t anticipate a garbage rate hike for their customers after Town Creek got into the garbage collection business last week and took about 425 residential customers with it.
Town Creek received a $120,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Facilities grant and added $40,000 more from a reserve account to fund the garbage-collection project.
Mayor Mike Parker said the money was used to purchase a truck, equipment, tools and a storage facility.
Town Creek residential customers are paying $15 a month for the city service. Extra cans are $5 each per month.
Town Creek residents were paying the county $14 a month with $3 for an extra can before the change that went into effect April 1, when the town’s contract with Lawrence County expired. Moulton, the only other municipality in Lawrence County to collect its own garbage, also charges $15 a month.
“I haven’t heard anything negative (about the cost difference),” Parker said. “We hope to give our citizens better service. If the driver happens to miss a house, we’ll pick up the same day or the next day. We’re also looking to make some money and save our citizens money in the long run.”
Angela Baldwin, the county's solid waste department manager, and Kyle Pankey, County Commission chairman, said losing about 425 of its 14,000 residential customers is not a game-changer, and they don’t expect any other municipalities to leave the county’s program. Contracts have been renewed through March 2022, they said.
“I don’t see fees going up at this point,” Baldwin said. “I wish Mayor Parker all the best.”
She said it took her drivers about 90 minutes to pick up Town Creek’s residential garbage every Thursday.
“It will cut down on our expenses on gas and maintenance, but we won’t have that revenue coming in,” Pankey said. “We operate on volume. If (the price) changes, it will be going up.” He said the commission will have clearer numbers in about six months. He said he is mystified why the residents would agree to pay more.
“At $14 a month, Lawrence County has one of the cheapest or the cheapest rates” for garbage collection, he said. “Why would anybody want to pay more?”
Pankey said the county’s solid waste revenue will decrease about $6,000 a month due to Town Creek leaving. Parker, meanwhile, said the new money will go into running the program and reimbursing the reserve account.
“We won’t have much overhead,” Parker said. “We’ve hired a couple of guys part-time to collect and drive to the landfill. We should be able to turn a profit soon and when other places will be going up in price, we’ll be able to protect our customers.”
Parker said another reason for leaving the county’s collection is the county’s larger 22- and 26-ton trucks have damaged the town’s streets on a regular basis and the city’s 10-ton truck is more nimble in the neighborhoods. The smaller truck has two side-loading cart tippers, and requires a driver and another employee to place the can on the lift. It does not require a commercial driver license to operate, the mayor said.
“The county trucks had trouble sometimes turning around on some of our smaller streets,” Parker said. “Their larger trucks were damaging the edges of our streets and occasionally their trucks would have to go in people’s yards to make some turns.”
Parker enlisted Willie Allen, former Lawrence County solid waste director, to help in the transition.
“It’s about an eight-hour day to collect Town Creek’s garbage in their smaller truck. We made two trips to the landfill last week,” Allen said. “I applaud Town Creek and Mayor Parker for being creative. They’re close to the landfill and it only makes sense. Cities are easier to pick up because of population density.”
The Morris Farm Landfill, north of Hillsboro, is 14 miles from Town Creek’s City Hall. Allen and Parker agree the close proximity to the landfill makes the garbage project feasible.
“You’ve got to keep your eye on fuel costs and where they’re headed,” Allen said. “If Town Creek was much farther away, it might not be happening.”
Parker said the town’s garbage service picks up in the town limits and west along Alabama 20 to the Colbert County line, where there are about 10 houses. The county will still collect in the Town Creek police jurisdiction and surrounding valley.
Town Creek Councilman Aaron Goode said residential customers with low income and disabilities may be exempt from garbage collection fees. “There is a form you can get at City Hall to request such exemptions,” he said. “We’re hoping to see a profit doing this work ourselves.”
Town Creek does not have to pay tipping fees at the landfill, but will pay $1 per ton for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. In the first week of residential collection, Allen said Town Creek collected 4 tons.